Posts Tagged ‘Robert Motherwell’

Blackpaint 580 – The Best Exhibitions of the Year (and the worst…)

December 29, 2016

Compulsory Annual Review time

Kicking off with exhibitions, in order of merit (sort of):

Abstract Expressionism, RA

Room after room of masterpieces; the (first) red de Kooning and Joan Mitchell’s “Salut Tom” get my prize, but it’s all good stuff.

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Robert Rauschenberg, Tate Modern

Staggering – although I don’t think he’s a “modern Da Vinci”; his inventiveness is confined to the art world.  I loved everything except the bubbling mud bath.

rob-estate

Hieronymus Bosch, s’Hertegenbosch, Netherlands

Exploding with imagination and an exquisite painter.  Everything on sale in town has a “Bosch” trademark.

bosch john the baptist

Saul Leiter, Photographers Gallery/William Eggleston, National Portrait Gallery

Separate exhibitions but equally brilliant – by sticking them together, I get one more place on my top ten.  Leiter made me think of Cheever and Norman Rockwell; Eggleston of “Psycho” and Arbus.  But they are both much more than that…

saul postmen

Leiter

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Eggleston

Intrigue, James Ensor, RA

Surprisingly brilliant, amazingly varied – and still on, like AbEx and Rauschenberg.

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He does a scintillating vegetable and his skate is rather alarming (see below) – see also Chardin and Soutine for two other skates – but not a pair.

Ensor_TheSkate

William Kentridge, Whitechapel

I think it’s his flick book pictures I like best.

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Robert Motherwell, Bernard Jacobson Gallery

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Round the corner from the other AbExes at the RA, some lovely big pictures that were NOT from the “Requiem for the Spanish Civil War” group.

Etel Adnan, Sackler

Israeli artist; earlier pictures better, I think, reminiscent of de Stael.  Terrific colour and texture.

adnan2

Mary Heilmann, Whitechapel

Any other year, she would have been higher on the list.  I don’t like the spots and the nursery colours, however.

mary heilmann3

 

Russian Portraits, National Portrait Gallery

A revelation, before the Revolution (sorry).  Repin, Serov.. brilliant.

Russia Morozov

 

The list doesn’t include Baselitz, Paul Nash, Terence Donovan, Botticelli, Delacroix, Infinite Mix, Turner Prize (!), Saatchi Champagne Life…. what can you do?  An exceptionally brilliant year in every respect, except the US election, terrorist attacks, foreign wars, global warming…

Disappointing…

Georgia O’ Keefe at Tate Modern.  Well, not really – just don’t like her stuff generally (although I DO like the one below).

okmountain

Also disappointing…

Winifred Knights, Dulwich Picture Gallery

The Deluge 1920 Winifred Knights 1899-1947 Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1989 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T05532

Too mannered.And…

Wifredo Lam, Tate Modern

lam

Too black and white.  OK, films, museums, DVDs, theatre tomorrow.

lvg3

Cleveland Way, 82

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29/12/16

 

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 576 – Coprophagia, Clowns and Coogan

November 25, 2016

Robert Motherwell, Bernard Jacobson Gallery

Sorry, done it again – last day today.  Great little exhibition though, opposite the rear of the RA.  These three are big ones – 177, 194 cms, that sort of order; “California” (1959) is a bit like a Frankenheimer and “The Studio” (1987) surely channels Matisse.

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The Mexican Window (1974)

 

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California (1959)

 

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The Studio (1987)

 

Intrigue – James Ensor, presented by Luc Tuymans, RA

Bowled over by this; he had two or three styles, like Kitaj.  Here, in this dark one, he’s like Sickert –  there, in that dark drawing room, like Vuillard.  You can see Van Gogh, Turner (the green stage one, very like the Petworth Turners), Goya’s witches and penitents, Brueghel, Moreau – even Munch, but better.  Apart from the dark rooms, there are the fantastic still lifes, the skate, the cabbage and flowers with their sizzling, fizzing background – you’ll see what I mean – and the masks, chinoiserie, clowns, processions, skeletons, satirical cartoons (the Bad Doctors, winding out the patient’s small intestine, like an early martyr) – and a group of critics round the table, eating shit; first coprophagic instance.

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The Drunkards

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The Bad Doctors

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Intrigue

 

Alan Davie, the Seventies, Gimpel Fils until 14th Jan.

A rather disappointing flatness to these – no texture, no roughness.  In the gallery’s photo, however, they look brilliant.

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Collections of symbols/motifs (fruit segment moons, stripey snakes, Ace of Clubs (cf. Diebenkorn), lips, crowns…  sometimes reminds me, superficially,  of Aboriginal art, or should that be first nation Australian?

Always on Sunday – Rousseau (Ken Russell, 1965) – DVD of 3 Russell films for Monitor and Omnibus.

The artist James Lloyd plays Douanier Rousseau with his own broad Yorkshire accent in this Russell film for Monitor; it works brilliantly, of course.  Russell has a woman, Annette Robertson (below) playing Alfred Jarry, the tiny anarchist playwright and revolver enthusiast, author of “Pere Ubu”, who befriends Rousseau.  At a perfrormance of Ubu, the bourgeoisie gobble a stew of faeces on stage; in case you miss it, an actor announces”shitter!”, twice, to the disgust and outrage of the audience – second coprophagic episode.

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Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World –  (Ken Russell, 1966)

Isadora (Vivian Pickles) and 500 children in floaty costumes ran down a hill at the Devil’s Punchbowl in Surrey, towards the cameras and Ken waiting at the bottom. Unfortunately, they all ran to the right instead of parting and flowing past Ken on both sides, so they had to go back up and do it again.  Brilliant TV film of course. but NOT the feature film that I remember; that was based on a different memoir and directed by Karel Reisz.  It starred Vanessa Redgrave and in one memorable montage sequence, showed Isadora arriving at “London” station.  I think Readers Digest funded it.

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Nomad, Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan)

Alan Partridge and James Joyce are similar, in that their respective styles penetrate and corrupt anything you read immediately afterwards.  I remarked before on how Finnegans Wake affects me; I tend to read a few pages at a time, then move on to another book – for a while, you think you are still reading “Wake” and you can’t properly take in the new text.  I had the exact same thing with Partridge and Proust.  Granted, Alan was discussing the way his excess fat tends to form on his back and Marcel was spending three pages or so describing milk boiling over…

Three small ones on wood panel and one (Seated Figure ) on canvas:

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Seated Figure

 

hard-abstract

Fleeing Figure

 

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Still Life with Orange and Banana

 

yellow-bridge

Bridgehead 2

Blackpaint

25.11.16

Blackpaint 405 – Rembrandt’s Mother, Mating Slugs and Shipwrecks

July 20, 2013

Top of The Lake

Holly Hunter as GJ shaping up already to be the most irritating act on TV, with Peter Mullan’s as the character you would most like to see blasted with a shotgun.  Is rural New Zealand really like this?  Those two from “Flight of the Conchords” seemed harmless enough.

Bought with Love BBC4

Prog about early private collections in England.  Many astonishing paintings, but the one that stuck in my mind’s eye was the portrait of Rembrandt’s mother at Wilton House; the old woman’s face seems to be coming out of the picture towards you, while the papers she is reading stay below within the bounds of the canvas.

rembrandts mother

OK, that effect not so obvious here, but on the telly….

Uzak

It means “distance”.  2002 film by Nuri Bilge Ceylan of “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”.  Ravishing shots of Istanbul in snowstorm, especially scenes in the docks that remind one of “Red Desert” somehow.  There is a whole ship tipped over on its  side; the cranes and containers under the snow inevitably recall Brueghel, and therefore Tarkovsky – obvious tribute here, I think the video which Mahmut watches is “Stalker”; that is, until he swaps it for a porn film…  You can hear owls hooting in the night streets of Istanbul, apparently.  And I’m only halfway through…

Roberto Zabetta at the Ronchini Gallery in Dering Street

Huge, black and grey, swirling, sliding paint on canvas – “rhythmic spurts of paint and expressive brush strokes”…  like half a Rauschenberg, without the graphics.

Lun Tuchnowski at Annely Juda (next door to Ronchini) 

Fantasy metal helmets, like Lord of the Rings props, one like a Mickey Mouse Club hat, another with hedgehog spikes;  dangling, entwined, metal tubes and coils, like giant slugs mating; a wall full of giant, pouting bronze lips; a huge, plastic or fibre glass coloured wheel and bobbin, like space  escape capsule and marker buoy.

Also at Annely Juda, the Russian Club present Wonderland (?) 

Not sure exactly what this is all about – they’re not Russians; but there is a very striking video of an artist nursing his bare right leg – I think its his right – as if it were a baby.  After watching for a few moments, you do get the illusion that it is actually detached…

Bernard Jacobson Gallery, Cork Street – Robert Motherwell collages

Big, rather simple collages, usually consisting of one or two stuck-on paper components, a magazine or ticket, say, with coloured and striped background.  Reminded me somewhat of the Kitaj collages at the British Museum prints and drawing room.  Very different to the Schwitters collages, which usually consist of far more disparate elements assembled in a pictorial way – not sure that makes sense, I just mean the Motherwells are bigger and more simple.

Daughters of Mars, Thomas Kenneally

The early parts of this book about Australian nurses in WWI are riveting; Gallipoli, the sinking of the Archimedes… second half. however, while still readable, beginning to remind me of those prestige costume dramas you get on Sunday on BBC; Birdsong, maybe, or the Paradise.  Kenneally, interviewed at Hay Festival, did say one interesting thing, though; that authors (I think he meant male ones) write about sex far more than they actually get it – wonder if that applied to Salter, in his younger days of course.. he is 87 now..but then again, you never know.

 

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20.07.13

Blackpaint 329 – Manly Women and The Rear View

March 6, 2012

Leonard Rosoman

Obituary for the above today in Guardian. Fireman during the Blitz, painted the famous picture of the wall collapsing on two firemen during a raid (which he witnessed).  A beautiful picture of an aircraft with folded wings, Sutherland – ish, a luscious rose-pink; was in the Imperial War Museum some time back, maybe still on show.

Robert Motherwell

Looking at Motherwell’s art, you really come to understand what is meant by “gestural” painting – that’s exactly what many of his pictures resemble; a deliberate, sometimes violent, always deliberate gesture, usually in black, often with spatters, on a plain background.  His colours, unlike those of, say, Hoffman, are limited to maybe three or four at the most.  The Spanish Elegy series ran to over a hundred pictures, all with the same central image, based apparently on the dead bull’s testicles in the bullring.  This (below) is his Ulysses, in the Tate, which I have mentioned several times; it’s the most striking image in the surrealism bit (what’s it doing there?)…

Joan Mitchell

Every day, I change my mind – yesterday, I would have sworn de Kooning was the best of the AbEx bunch – OK, I know he wasn’t really an AbEx, not even an abstractionist for a lot of the time, but for convenience’ sake…  Today, I’ve picked up the Joan Mitchell book and it’s page after page of beautiful, fresh, intertwined tangles of bright paint, green, gold, blue, that somehow avoid bleeding into each other and becoming muddy and sludgy – Hemlock, Evenings on 73rd Street. George went swimming, Hudson River Day Line – and then the ones assembled out of colour blocks that look as if they are glowing with fire – Salut Sally, Wet Orange, Belle Bete, all with thin colours dribbling over and through the blocks.  They look good enough to eat.

Hudson River Day Line

She’s sort of the Anti-Auerbach; even when the canvas is covered, there’s light and space and air, somehow.  I love Auerbach’s sludgy paintings too, I hasten to add.

de Kooning

I’d assumed that he put his paintings together on the canvas, so to speak; that the charcoal and paint lines left in or only partly erased or obscured were evidence of an improvisatory approach – wrong.  He left some in, painted over others,  He traced or enlarged elements from one picture or sketch to another.  He appears to have borrowed images from other painters on occasion, a notable example being the screaming woman looking up to the sky in “Guernica”.  He mixed his paints with plaster of paris to achieve particular effects. 

It seems that few American Abstract Expressionists fitted the stereotype of the gestural painter, who improvises as he/she goes along.  Maybe only Pollock and a couple of othersMotherwell?

Apart from three canvases, my paintings are totally improvised – when I start, I’ve hardly any idea of where they are going to go.  No sketches, it all takes place on the canvas or the paper.  First thing – get the canvas dirty with a swatch or slash of paint.  After that, it proceeds by trial and error and correction, scraping and plastering.  Shapes emerge and are incorporated or painted over, tracts of paint have to be concealed, scraped off or cut back.  Eventually, an image or set of images emerges, that I think constitutes a picture.  I’m sure that, if I did sketches or preparation, the end result would be better – but the process would be like work and I’d have to stop.  I’d rather keep painting.

Michelangelo

I haven’t written anything about the maestro for ages, so had a flick through the picture books tonight.  Two things struck me, both very banal, I’m sure.  First, most of his women, with the exception of Virgins, are really men with breasts stuck on (I think Alan Bennett put that observation into “The History Boys”) – and one of the images of God in the 8th bay of the Sistine ceiling is showing his bare backside, for no good reason.  Given that lots of genitalia were later painted over, how did that get past the censors?

Goodfellas

Paging through the channels aimlessly the other night, came across Paul Sorvino’s pouchy face peering at the garlic clove, as he shaves it into thin slices with a razor blade – and that was it, hooked again; only seen it about twenty-three times.  Astounding that he never got an Oscar until The Departed.

A really early one.

Some of my stuff in the WhatIf Gallery, Dartford.

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06.03.12

Blackpaint 35

January 10, 2010

Kenneth Noland

In yesterday’s obituary of Noland, Michael McNay recalls Clement Greenberg’s use of the term “post-painterly abstractionists” to describe Noland and others, and remarks how, for Greenberg, “the purely colour-based paintings of Noland and the others marked out a different and more advanced stage of art’s march to absolute abstraction”. 

This sounds very odd now, the idea of art as a rolling process heading in a particular direction towards fulfilment, in some sort of Hegelian or Marxian progression.  Further on in the piece, McNay mentions the “wholesale rejection by younger painters…of modernist abstraction” in the 1960s.

Now, of course, everything is fragmented and one can cut and paste from these past movements – nothing is original.  this, thank goodness, does not mean the same as “nothing is worthwhile doing”; but I suppose every piece that is produced of whatever kind fits into some existing category, with ready points of comparison by which the critic can assess its worth.

Is that really so, or is there true originality “out there”? (horrible cliche, like “I don’t think so”, or “Do you know what?” or “Good luck with that.”)  Here’s another one; Answers on a postcard to….

Taschen

Yesterday, I bought the two new Taschen books “Abstract Art” and “Abstract Expressionism”.  Both full of images of great beauty and profundity that I am tempted to describe in superlatives like “stunning” and “poignant” – but I won’t, because I am of a certain age and culture, and besides they are cliches.

Something I noticed was the use of marginalised or obscured colours in two paintings in particular.  The first, by Barnett Newman, “who’s afraid of red, yellow and blue I”.  This is at first glance a red rectangle with a narrow stripe of blue running down the left margin.  Only at second glance (perhaps as a reaction to the title) do you notice the much narrower, and ragged stripe of yellow down the right margin.

The other picture, by Robert Motherwell, is one of the famous “Elegy to the Spanish Republic” series, this one no.34.  In this version, the bulbous black figures in the foreground partially hide background squares of red yellow ochre and blue, arranged in rough columns.  I think I’ve seen a version in the Tate Modern, and I’m sure that it was on a background of plain white.  The colours (of the Spanish Republican flag) transform the image from an abstract one to a symbolic one to my mind – although I suppose you could argue that the title itself does that, to an extent anyway.

More about these stunning and poignant paintings of great beauty and profundity to follow.

Today, I listened to no music at all – but I watched Wolfie Adams beat Dave Chisnall in the darts final, to the accompaniment of the most surreal commentary yet from Tony Green and his colleague.

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